Editor’s note: This is an installment in a series of staff profiles meant to help the community get to know some of the different staff members that we see everyday. If you are interested in writing a piece on a favorite staff member or have someone you’d like to see profiled, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week I got the opportunity to sit down with Susan Lewis, the Executive Assistant to the Dean of the College. She’s been with Haverford since 2017, and you may know her as the person who helped ensure that your club got the funding it needed earlier this semester! Read on to learn more about her background, interests and favorite holiday tradition!
I saw you grew up in the Midwest – what brought you to the Main Line?
Susan grew up in the Midwest, living in both Indiana and Illinois. After graduating from college, she rejoined her family, who had moved to the Philadelphia area. She has remained in the area since finding her first job here.
What did you study in college and how does that relate to your work today?
Susan studied communications in college, a field which focuses on honing students’ skills and theoretical understandings of debate, argumentation, writing and public relations. Susan’s role at Haverford involves lots of communication with different stakeholders. Often, this includes communicating delicate or complex topics, so her communications training comes in handy!
What is your role at Haverford and what does that look like in the day-to-day?
Her role is predominantly in supporting the Dean of the College, John McKnight, helping him manage his calendar and schedule meetings and correspondences within the division. But more broadly, she provides administrative assistance to the entire Student Life division. This can involve managing the logistics for a departmental retreat or assisting with the budget management of a particular initiative. She additionally manages the financial side of a few programs that support first-generation and low-income students with her role involving distributing stipends and disbursing funds as needed.
What is your favorite part of your job here?
The students! Susan appreciates being in an educational environment, she loves the “back to school” energy and being around people who are always learning. She has two daughters herself, one who is a junior in college and the other who is in medical school, so she feels well-equipped to relate to college-aged students. While she deeply enjoys working with all students, having herself worked through college and paying her own tuition, she feels a particular affinity with students who are coming from low-income backgrounds or are the first in their families to attend college. This means that she finds her work on the LIFTFAR, Nest, Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship and Chesick Scholars programs to be uniquely meaningful.
She describes the most rewarding moments at Haverford to be when she is able to create connections between different projects, individuals or offices on campus. She values the way her colleagues seem to always be thinking: How can we create collaborations? How can we collaborate better?
How is Haverford different from other places you’ve worked?
Susan has worked at many colleges and universities in the area, including Penn, Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr. She says that while these schools share similar roots, Haverford students express their agency uniquely. She says, “at Haverford, student leaders really lead.”
What are your interests and what do you like to do in your free time?
Susan loves to watch cooking shows (think: The Great British Baking Show) and is an avid knitter. When it comes to knitting, she loves to make creative and challenging things, and something she knitted actually made it to space on the Space Shuttle Atlantis STS 115 (you’ll have to ask her for the story)! Her mother taught her to knit and she often knits for others and for charity, contributing to the Office of Service Auction and donating knitted hats to children born prematurely or people undergoing chemotherapy treatment. These causes are close to her heart, as both her mother and brother had Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and another family member had a son born prematurely. She says, “Knitting was a gift my mother gave me and so being able to make something for someone else is a way to honor her.”
She also loves to spend time with her family, with whom she has travelled extensively. Internationally, they’ve been to Korea, Japan, France, Italy, Singapore and Sweden. Domestically, they’ve hit many of the Major and Minor League Baseball parks, as well as national parks for hiking.
Favorite holiday tradition?
For Susan, Thanksgiving is an especially meaningful holiday. Her family combines traditional dishes with others that represent parts of their family history. In this way, the food they eat drives home the point that their family is a melting pot. For her mother from Syria, they include a Middle Eastern rice dressing. Her husband is from the South, and for him they include black-eyed peas with their Thanksgiving Dinner. Susan, who herself was adopted from Korea as a toddler, holds out hope for getting kimchi to be included in their Thanksgiving spread!